Wednesday, January 12, 2022

Giving Up On Redefining Myself

The world is my oyster. I have lots of time on my hands, although I see February and March trying to clutter my calendar with some stuff. I worked many years to be able to have days that I can own and fill as I choose.  I am trying to stay healthy, both physically and mentally, but I do find that both exercise and being social are challenges as I love wasting time: reading, birdwatching, blogging, taking pictures.

Above is a one-thousand-piece puzzle that my husband bought years ago and which I ignored until I cleaned out a closet and found it.  I bought myself a puzzle table for a Christmas gift from me (hubby is not into buying gifts over the holidays) and I set it up in my bedroom where there is good light.  It is mostly in soothing shades of blue, as you can see, and I am working on it daily.  Usually an hour or so in the morning.  

Above you can see that a few days later and I have really been 'ripping' along.  It took me most of one morning just to sort out the straight edges and sort certain colors/patterns into plastic bags!  The perfect activity for the anal-retentive.

Perhaps my readers have watched the British mystery series called Wallendar, which was adapted from books written by Sweden's Henning Mankell.  Oddly this activity reminds me of  Detective Wallender's father who in great senility ended up painting almost identical tree scenes again and again.  We self-soothe in many ways. Accomplishment is very important in old age.

I also just finished reading the first in a series of spy books written by Dorothy Gilman about a 50 something woman with no spy skills called Mrs. Pollifax.  I will probably not read more after this first book because, while a fun read, it just did not flow for me and was a bit old-fashioned.  Anyway, our middle-aged spy spends parts of her capture playing game after game of solitaire which helps soothe her.

What do you do regularly to pass the time?  Do you ever do anything that others would consider a waste of time but which you find helpful getting you through your week, your day?

Thursday, January 06, 2022

Summary of How This Year is Starting

Well, everyone, I am thinking, was glad to kick 2021's butt out the back door and welcome in 2022. And 2022 has not been shy. He/She(they?) arrived on time and semi-quietly in my neighborhood.  I arose early since I was too rude and lazy to greet it at midnight.  The neighborhood was quiet and actually not too cold. I was surprised to see roses still in bloom.  And the hellebores were forming buds just a bit early.

Unknown to me 2022 had invited a jet stream of cold air just to the north waiting to collide with the warmer rainy air that we were getting.

2022 could hardly wait to say "Boom!  Gotcha!"  The snow was fast and heavy and powerful and up to 2 inches an hour. ("Betcha wish 2021 had stayed longer!")

My neighbors to the north got 8 inches.  We got 5.  And by mid-morning, we also lost power.  I had not bothered to fill the buckets with water.  Since we are on well water that is pumped by an electric pump, what does this mean?  Having lived many years overseas with periodic power outages, I knew and quickly put stickers on all the toilet seats.

We have a wood fireplace and can keep reasonably warm, except for the fancy high ceilings which we designed into our major living space!  We have a gas range and can cook food in pots when needed.  I made soup.  We were without power for 24 hours.  A baby inconvenience from when we were out of power for almost a week due to a hurricane many years ago when we lived in the city.

2022 got bored with our neighborhood and stranded hundreds of automobiles for well over 30 hours on a major highway north of us.  People were stuck in their vehicles in the cold, many without water, food, medications, and warmer clothing.  One truck was a bread truck and the owner told the driver to distribute the bread!

My daughter and her family made it home from Colorado the night before the storm, so I guess 2022 was distracted and decided not to strand her for hours in that Denver airport that is so dysfunctional in so many ways.

Yesterday our friend who is a local nurse called to tell us the COVID-Omecron wave had hit big in our little county and the hospitals were packed.  She insisted we stay home as much as possible as this new version was 3 times as infective even with the milder version. 

Yes, there is another snowstorm about half the strength on its way tonight.  My holly trees have lost their crowns in the weight and my neighbor just got a mid-sized tree off the back of her truck.  At least the sun shining on the fresh snow is beautiful.  2022 is not done with us yet as it is only(early) January.

The winter is still beautiful with all its dangers.

Wednesday, December 29, 2021

That Old See/Saw

I have always felt a letdown as the holidays wind down.  When I was younger I was able to fill the empty hours with a return to my job or projects that I had listed to complete during the winter vacation before I returned to work.  I had family responsibilities that made me feel useful.  I road the waves out until the crest of January and its deadlines reared their ugly head.  (Rarely living in the moment!)

Now I find it more difficult to catch the next wave when the waves are small and barely moving.  Retirement coupled with old age brings time for thoughts, regrets, and wishes for do-overs.  I know that it is stupid and useless to venture down that path, but each year I feel a little more useless in this world and my mistakes haunt me.  I volunteer, donate money, and try to spend as much time as possible with family and my few friends, but everything seems much more ephemeral and questionable as I have acquired perspective moving to the end of the tunnel of my lifeline.  Perhaps the stress of the times mixed with my perspective on world affairs adds to this frustration.

This does get balanced with the wonderful opportunities I have for study, pleasure reading, watching great entertainment, watching my family grow and venture into their exotic new lives, and traveling with my husband.  I know that I have nothing to complain about.  I know that my rich life is how I make it. 

So I look to wise men (and women) to lift me:

Take kindly the counsel of the years, gracefully surrendering the things of youth.

Nurture strength of spirit to shield you in sudden misfortune. But do not distress yourself with dark imaginings. Many fears are born of fatigue and loneliness.

Beyond a wholesome discipline, be gentle with yourself. You are a child of the universe no less than the trees and the stars; you have a right to be here.

And whether or not it is clear to you, no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should. Therefore be at peace with God, whatever you conceive Him to be. And whatever your labors and aspirations, in the noisy confusion of life, keep peace in your soul. With all its sham, drudgery and broken dreams, it is still a beautiful world. Be cheerful. Strive to be happy.  Desiderata by Max Ehrmann

And as I venture into 2022 and I will work on my attitude.  

Tuesday, December 21, 2021

Today and Long Ago Yesterday

Today is my birthday and I have made it to 3/4 of a century. I certainly never thought about that, although I hoped to live a long and healthy life. My cough has been suppressed with the medicine and I have been sleeping like a baby for months! 

While the new variant of COVID has us a bit concerned we are taking all the precautions and going forward a month after our last booster using masks and sanitizers. We are eating out and taking that chance, but it has been such a long pandemic season. We headed up to Lancaster, PA last week to shop for a canoe as a Christmas/Birthday gift for our son. He has been trying to save up for one and both families decided to help him out. The canoe inventory in our area, including several nearby cities, was very sparse. The largest inventory we found was way up in a tiny community in Lancaster. We were surprised at how hard it was to pick a size, model, brand, etc. once we got there.  But we got him a nice canoe, did some Christmas gift buying in the Amish market and stores, and ate at a fancy restaurant owned by a former White House Chef who served under both Bushes and Clinton. The food was very good, if not the exotic or excellence I was expecting. The restaurant was designed like an Inn and that coziness along with the Christmas decorations and some wonderful holiday cocktails made it something we had not had the chance to experience since we are out in the rural area of our state. 

This area has lots of churches of various denominations with some historic cemeteries. This one below has some connections to William Penn, a member of the Quakers who emigrated from England and was the founder of the province (now a state) of Pennsylvania. Penn first called the area "New Wales", then "Sylvania" (Latin for "forests" or "woods"), which King Charles II changed to "Pennsylvania" in honor of the elder Penn.
This area is also the heart of an Amish religious sect. The Amish had split from the Swiss and Alsatian Mennonite Anabaptists in 1693 in Switzerland. They are very conservative and avoid modern technologies as much as possible. My husband has been involved in business with our Amish down here and the man is very difficult to reach as he has no phone and has to walk a mile to another farm to use theirs...which seems to me odd. Either use technology or not. They do not like to have their photos taken and this one was a snap from our car as we drove down the road.  They go about by carriage.
There are vast farms with little on no electricity.  We found a number of great places to get ice cream made from their dairy farms.  They still grow tobacco for their personal use and hang it to dry in tobacco barns like they did hundreds of years ago.  Yet I saw some pretty fancy and expensive farm equipment being driven by Amish farmers.

The only bakery we have where I live here is that found in the large supermarkets. They are good but not outstanding like the European bakeries.  We enjoyed window shopping at the local bakeries.  Below is an Amish bakery and we did buy just a half dozen pastries, although everything was so tempting.
The brief vacation was a nice respite from our hungered-down lifestyle.  It was just a bit disconcerting to see how many fractious factions of Christianity evolved over time, especially of note during the holy day season. It reminded me once again that Jesus was not a Christian.

Saturday, December 11, 2021

The Season of Avoiding the Calorie Count

During this time of year, our two (three?) persimmon trees outside begin to produce abundantly. The entire harvest arrives in less than two weeks and if we are efficient we can get to them before the raccoons. They cannot be eaten until fully ripe as they are very astringent when firm. So we harvest and let them sit out until they are quite soft to the touch and almost translucent in appearance. The tree itself has showy fall color.
Once they are as soft as a firm pudding I can puree them for recipes.
...such as persimmon cookies. Some for the freezer and others for the cookies jar.  I now have too much puree.  I am going to try adding them to pre-packaged lemon and orange cake mixes as an experiment.
I have brought my citrus trees inside to the tiny corner of my kitchen and they have gone crazy with both blossoms and fruit at the same time! Below are my kaffir lime tree and my Meyer lemon tree.  The harvested kaffir are the size of golf balls.

Oddly the fragrance of the citrus blossoms is not as full as when they are blooming outside in the spring. But the kaffir juice and shaved rind are perfect for a warming winter curry.
And today I sort the persimmons for ripeness and begin again!

Sunday, December 05, 2021

A Conversation with the New Neighbor

"Martha is going to come over in forty-five minutes to see the lights out on the dock. She wants to know how we did it."  Hubby calls down the hall from the kitchen.

I stopped pulling on my exercise pants halfway and sighed. I knew she was going to come dressed as if setting out for a trip to shop in the city or looking like she was going on a country fox hunt without the riding boots. 

I pulled over my roomy black chenille top which fit me like a box cover.  It was large and warm and could be used for exercise later in the day if I could talk myself into that.  I was not going to dress up for a neighbor visit! 

As I passed out through the bathroom I glanced at the large mirror over my sink and admitted I needed to at least apply a little make-up and brush my crazy, wild, gray hair.  My eyebrows have gone pale gray, and as a result, I have a little expression on my face if I don't draw them in with a dark charcoal brush.  Martha's haircut is that perfect trim that matches those who have been on television...which, of course, she had in years past.  My hair is cut into a shag-pixie something or other.  It doesn't hurt that Martha has the facial bone structure of a blueblood and has that delicate beauty that some women are able to hang on to when they age.  Like me, she is pushing 80.

It took her over an hour to arrive and I filled the nervous time straightening the living room and moving the folded clothes to the bedroom. I was still barefoot and put on some winter socks.  This is the first time she will actually be in the house as COVID has prevented us from really welcoming her to our home and also the neighborhood.  If you remember she bought the mansion across the ravine.

She finally arrives in slim gray pants and one of those down jackets in a baby pink that matches her lipstick and some large disk earrings.  She apologizes as she had received a call from the local museum and its concern about the depletion of their reserve accounts due to COVID and since she was on the board, she had to respond.  I have never been on a board, and I have never been asked but it makes me think of bored.

Hubby jabbers as he often does around charming people, but finally, I get her to move through the living room down to the dock.  She studies how hubby has tied the ropes to the pilings and then tied the outdoor holiday lights to the rope.  We got a reindeer on discount (still expensive) at the hardware store and plugged it in at the end of the rope.  It needs a bow and/or a red nose! Baring a major rain we should be able to protect connections with taped plastic.

She admires his handy work and says that she likes our "icicle" lights better than the traditional lights used by the neighbors across the way.  She said that she gets up early and some folks already have their lights on.  How do they do that?  While I sense a bit of competitive nature in this, I am polite and explain we use outdoor timers and show her ours.  

She smiles and says she is heading to the local hardware store and maybe the local plant place to see if she can replicate our "beauty."

She is really a very nice person, but I think she is either a 'dumb blonde' or is using this need for information as a means to get to know her neighbors better.  I mean...light timers are not exactly new technology.

Saturday, November 27, 2021

A Worthwhile Post

Some of you are so good at writing on a regular schedule.  Readers do like that.  They like knowing that every morning or even just every Thursday morning (or evening) they can join you with their computer and beverage of choice and live vicariously as you review your daily adventures, challenges, and hobbies. Oh, the food.  Don't forget about the food.

Maybe you are in the sunshine near a beach or maybe you are documenting the first heavy snowfall of the year.  One hundred years ago people had to wait maybe a week to read the adventures of someone they knew.  While personal Post Office Boxes were finally more common, it still was an adventure getting mail.  Catalogs were something that many looked forward to reading over the holiday season for gift ideas.  I don't know about you, but I throw away a half dozen each day!

Anyway, I do not blog on a regular schedule.  I do not deliver text predictably.  I may be a little busier on Facebook with people that I personally know, but my bloggers are like penpals.  I have met very few of you.  You do not want or need to read every detail of my life.  Yet, we read each other like some serial novel.

I am back home after a week away.  My mailbox was stuffed, my fridge (A new one) was empty and I was comfortably tired.  The schedule worked out such that I saw both sets of my children's in-laws (at different times in different homes).  I am so lucky that my children married into nice and tolerable families.  Yes, they are both Republicans, but they both are embarrassed by Trump and even voted liberal in the most recent election.  They do not think vaccines are a statement of belief but a scientific tool to keep themselves and those they love healthy.  (No, we did NOT talk politics.)  They believe that our tax money is wasted on social programs...but the disagreement with us is more a statement of method rather than philosophy.

We spent Thanksgiving in my son and his wife's tiny house.  She is a memory hoarder and has way too much '"stuff" on shelves and in cupboards and stacked in boxes.  They have a nice yard to expand the house but do not have the money right now to do so.  The meal was ordered in and it was not great.  The turkey was dry and we messed up on the heating.  The homemade sweet potatoes and mashed potatoes were delicious.  The green beans and other vegetables were ok.  The pies came from a local bakery and were very good.  We four sat around a tiny table.

I tried to help in the tiny kitchen and it worked, barely.  My DIL seemed distracted.  They had asked that we stay through the day after TG to welcome her parents that made a five-hour drive down.  We agreed as we had not seen them in some long time!  

The six of us ate a pizza lunch together and then son and DIL said they wanted a photo of all of us on the couch.  No problem.  Son spent some time setting up the camera.  He kept changing the timing...or something but finally sat down and joined us for some still shots.  Then he said he wanted a video of us all??!  We agreed and joined on the couch again while he and his wife counted out 1-2-3.  I thought they were going to shout Happy Thanksgiving, but instead, they shouted out "We're having a baby!"  

All of the parents were shocked and weeping and so happy.  This couple has had a difficult marriage.  Without going into lots of details, my son had some serious medical issues and the marriage was very strained.  But they both were strong and overcame those issues and now, while they spent two years using fertility treatments and trying so hard to have a child and being disappointed each time...they are now blessed.

So this Thanksgiving was very special for all of us!  Yes, the fetus is only 3 months old, but we are so hopeful.